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Sen. Ben Hansen

Sen. Ben Hansen

District 16

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This column covers legislative days 47 through 50.

Greetings to all in District 16 and the surrounding region.  As the recovery from the flooding progresses I want to thank all the volunteers who’ve donated time, money, and resources to the victims of the flooding.  I’ve seen many stories on social media and in the newspapers about the incredible support pouring into Nebraska from around the country.  Times like these are good reminders that treating people with love, respect, and dignity is still the foundation of our culture.  I hope you all are as encouraged as I am by the response people have had to those affected by the flood.  We are all truly blessed to live in America, and specifically Nebraska!

This was the final week of public hearings in the legislature.  I greatly enjoyed being part of the Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Business and Labor Committees this year.  In each of these committees, I was able to utilize my education and experience to represent the many interests of our district.  It was a great learning experience and I am excited about serving on these committees during the next session.

Since committee hearings have wrapped up for the year we will move to full days of debate starting on April 2nd.  Though we’ve accomplished a fair amount so far, we have quite a ways to go before the session ends on June 6th.  We can expect the remainder of the session to filled with debate on property tax relief, corrections issues, industrial hemp, a new business tax incentive package, and budget issues.  The Revenue Committee has yet to release its package of property tax relief bills and neither has the Appropriations Committee released its proposed state budget.  These two topics alone will be the subject of vigorous and extended debate.  On the floor this week I made a statement about the time that is wasted in the Legislature when we could be discussing important topics like property tax relief.  I’m hopeful we can begin discussing tax relief soon now that committee hearings have ended.

My priority bill, LB 304, will be up for debate soon on the floor.  Though I wrote about it briefly in last week’s column, I want to refresh everyone a bit.  This bill is referred to as a “cottage foods” bill and would allow producers to sell the same low-risk cottage foods already sold at farmers markets from their homes or at other events.  The foods sold must be shelf-stable baked goods or other products not required to be time or temperature controlled.  To bring this bill out of committee, I worked on an amendment that would require producers to take and pass a food handler’s class, have their well water tested if served by a private well, and register with the Department of Agriculture.  By including these non-burdensome requirements, I was able to ensure senator and stakeholder concerns were met and there was no opposition to the bill.  I expect this bill will face little opposition during debate, and I’m excited about the positive effect it will have for many constituents in District 16.

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at

This column covers legislative days 43 through 46.

March 20th marked the first day of Spring and the halfway point of the 2019 legislative session.  The agenda for the remaining half took shape as senators and committees declared their priority bills.  Additionally, the Speaker of the Legislature is able designated up to 25 bills as “speaker priority bills” and released his list this week.  In order for a bill to be considered for the speaker priority list, senators must submit a letter requesting their bill be chosen as a speaker priority.  A combination of these bills – senator priority, speaker priority, and committee priority – will make up the rest of the debate for the 2019 session.

I’ve chosen LB 304 introduced by Sen. Crawford of Bellevue for my priority bill this session.  LB 304 is a cottage food bill allowing individuals and families to use their own home to prepare certain foods for sale at farmers markets, craft shows, and public events, or for distribution from their home.  When this bill was heard in committee I received many emails and phone calls urging my support to vote it out of committee.  Through those emails and phone calls, I learned just how important a bill like this could be to families looking for a bit of extra income or simply a way of spending meaningful time together doing something the whole family enjoys.  I expect the bill will soon be voted out of committee, with a few minor amendments, and make its way to the floor for debate on general file.

The flooding continues to be a major topic of discussion amongst senators and other officials in the Capitol.  During a briefing Thursday, Nebraska Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) officials said they are moving from rescue operations to recovery operations.  According to a White House press release Thursday, President Trump has declared that a major disaster exists in the state, freeing up federal aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  The President’s declaration includes Butler, Cass, Colfax, Dodge, Douglas, Nemaha, Sarpy, Saunders, and Washington counties with more counties to be included later as the declaration is processed.  Funding can be used for things such as temporary housing, home repairs, low-cost loans, and small business loans.  Citizens affected by the flood are encouraged to contact 2-1-1 or visit for information.

On Friday a statewide campaign called #NebraskaStrong kicked off.  The public/private partnership aims to raise money for those affected by the flooding.  Governor Rickets, Senators Sasse and Fischer, and others staffed a call center in an effort to raise funds for flood victims. To contribute to flood victims or to request assistance, please visit

If you have questions or comments, please contact the District 16 office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at

This column covers legislative days 39 through 42

Greetings to all in District 16 and the surrounding region.  This week many of you were affected by the terrible weather moving throughout Nebraska.  Please know this is at the forefront of everyone’s minds in the legislature.  Senators were briefed on the flood Thursday and will be receiving updates from state officials as the event continues.  Personally, I left the Capitol Thursday to tour the district and work with local officials in the area.  The flooding and damage exceed any I’ve seen in my lifetime, and with further snowmelt coming down river from Montana, South Dakota, and Wyoming, it may get worse before it gets better.

I’m incredibly proud of the way Nebraskans come together during times of distress like this.  The floods have taken much from us.  Homes, vehicles, personal property, and businesses have all been threatened and destroyed.  Livestock has been lost or are unable to be tended to.  First responders and civilians have acted with courage and bravery, using whatever means available to help their neighbors.  Most sadly have been the lives lost – in one case a good neighbor attempting to rescue another was swept away after a bridge collapsed.

These natural disasters have swept the state and our region has been hit exceptionally hard.  Please do what you can to stay safe, healthy, and alive.  We’ll pick up the pieces once this is all over as we have time and time again in the past and are sure to do again in the future.  My family, my staff, and I have been praying for you all.  It is important to direct assistance requests to the proper people and organizations with the means to help.  Their contact information is included at the bottom of the page.

Our state is in good hands as the leadership is doing everything in its power to make us whole again.  Bryan Tuma, Assistant Director of the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, is an exceptionally skilled leader in emergency management and has already been in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance. Again – our hearts go out to the entire region.  Please contact the individuals below with any assistance needs you may have.

  • Nebraska State Patrol – Cody Thomas
    Phone: 402-430-6196
  • Nebraska Department of Transportation – Jeni Campana
    Phone: 402-560-9764
  • Nebraska Emergency Management Agency – Jodie Fawl
    Phone: 402-326-3179
  • General Disaster Information
  • Phone: 2-1-1

You’re also welcome to contact our office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at

This column covers legislative days 35 through 38.

This week the legislature was especially active.  We began the week debating a bill requiring online sellers of goods to collect and remit sales tax and ended the week by passing 33 bills on final reading, including a proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate slavery or involuntary servitude.  The legislature adjourned Thursday and will reconvene on Tuesday after a long weekend for senators.

LB 384, introduced by Sen. McCollister of Omaha, has been widely accepted by the business community in Nebraska.  In fact, there were no opponents of the bill at its public hearing on January 31st.  Online retailers with gross revenue of $100,000 a year or over 200 separate transactions would be affected by the bill.  As our country’s economy has shifted, so has Nebraska’s.  This shift has placed brick-and-mortar retailers at a disadvantage, as they are required to collect sales tax at the point of the sale, but until now, online retailers could essentially choose not to collect those taxes and face little consequence.  I want to emphasize that this is not a tax increase.  These taxes were already required to be collected by physical stores, this bill simply ensures there is no special treatment given to online retailers.

Heard in the Agriculture Committee this week was LB 304 introduced by Sen. Crawford of Bellevue.  The bill helps entrepreneurs or families looking for some extra income by allowing the sale of homemade food products to the public.  Currently, many individuals and families are kept out of the marketplace by excessive regulation and inspection requirements.  I’ve heard from many constituents about how the bill would bring a little more joy and financial breathing room to their families.  I’ve now cosigned the bill and look forward to it passing.

One of the bills passed on Final Reading this week was LB 103, introduced by Sen. Linehan of Omaha.  We’re now starting to see small steps towards progress in the fight for property tax relief – and this bill is one of those steps.  LB 103 requires political subdivisions to hold public hearings to set their property tax request levies.  A hearing is required any time the subdivision would receive property tax dollars in excess of the prior year due to property valuation increases.  This change ensures that political subdivisions will not increase property taxes without any input from the public.

LB 103 passed 47-0 with an emergency clause, meaning it was immediately signed by the speaker, presented to the governor, and will take effect as soon as the governor signs it.  This is a meaningful step in the right direction towards transparency and tax relief.  The legislature’s quick action on this bill makes me optimistic that more progress will be coming as the session rolls on.

As always, you’re welcome to contact my office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at

This column covers legislative days 31 through 34.

As February comes to an end it seems like winter refuses to.  I’m not sure I’m ever going to believe that groundhog again, but I suppose the joke is on me if I ever believed him before!  I hope you are all staying safe and warm in District 16.

We’ll take a break from property tax bill reviews this week and return to them in my next column.  For now, I want to provide a quick review of the legislative process.  Each bill must be first introduced by a senator, then it receives its public hearing where anyone may come and testify about the bill.  A committee then discusses amendments to the bill and takes a vote on whether or not it should advance to General File, if it should be held until further changes are made, or if the bill should be held indefinitely in committee.

We dipped our toes into each stage of legislative debate this week.  Bills are debated for the first time on General File, then for the second round on Select File.  Amendments making changes to the bills can be offered during debate or discussed off the floor and brought at a later time.  If a bill receives at least 25 votes it will advance to the next round.  Periodically, as we did on Friday, we will fill the agenda with bills on Final Reading, making our final votes before the bills are sent to the Governor to sign into law.  Each bill is read in its entirety on Final Reading with the exception of a few that are just too long to read.  Senators voted on 45 bills during Final Reading last Friday.

Floor debate very energized on Thursday as Senator Brewer’s priority bill, LB 155, came up for debate.  Constituents of Senator Brewer’s district comprised of Dawes, Sheridan, Cherry, Brown, Keya Paha, Grant, Hooker, Thomas, Blaine, Loup, McPherson, and Logan counties, filled the balcony as the debate heated up on the floor.  The bill would have struck one sentence from state statute that says eminent domain for privately developed renewable energy generation facilities is a public use. Opponents of the bill argued this was an attempt at limiting the growth of renewable energy in Nebraska, but Sen. Brewer maintained his bill was about eliminating eminent domain for private development.

I agree with Sen. Brewer that eminent domain for private development should not be considered a public use.  Nebraskans take pride in their land – families often own the same land for generations.  Any private person or entity should be required to enter into good-faith negotiations if they wish to use another’s land.  Eminent domain should not be available as a bargaining chip or final option for private developers.  Though the bill fell two votes short of advancing, Sen. Brewer has vowed to bring it back next year.

As always, you’re welcome to contact my office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at

Senator Hansen’s 6th Column
February 22nd, 2019

This column covers legislative days 27 through 30 of this 90-day session.

I hope everyone has been able to navigate the incredible snowfall we’ve had this February and especially this week.  My intent is to commute to and from Lincoln every day during the legislative session so that I can spend time with family, but due to weather conditions, I’ve had to spend a bit more time away from them this month than usual.  Probably like many of you, I’m ready for Spring!

On February 21st I presented to the Health and Human Services Committee the last of my 5 introduced bills for this session.  LB 260 is a bill requested by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) that would authorize the state to opt-out of using Recovery Audit Contractors to audit businesses accepting Medicaid.  Recovery Audit Contractors, or RACs, are paid based on a percentage of the money they collect from businesses after auditing their practices.  Dr. Jessica Meeske, a pediatric dentist from Hastings, and two other pediatric dental students testified in support of my bill, saying that RACs question best care practices taught in dental school and create chaos for pediatric dentists who serve our state’s most vulnerable populations.  My bill allows DHHS to utilize RACs if needed but removes the requirement to do so.

I’m extremely appreciative of the amount of feedback I’ve received from constituents in District 16 about a number of bills and issues the legislature is considering this year.  As has been the case with past controversial bills, my email inbox was flooded with constituent contacts about LB 423.  Without going into detail about the bill and making my entire column about it, I simply wanted to express my gratitude for the level of involvement District 16 has with its state legislature.  Our district pays attention to what is happening and it remains an incredible honor to represent you all.

Next in my property tax bill review for this column is LB 695, introduced by Sen. Groene of North Platte.  LB 695 provides long-term property tax relief by making changes to Nebraska’s school funding formula.  First, the bill would provide a baseline amount of funding for schools on a per-student basis, creating a foundation aid amount to each school. Then, local property taxpayers would receive a 10% reduction in local property taxes with state equalization aid filling the gap in funding.  The growth of school needs would be adjusted based on a Consumer Price Index-calculated inflation rate, mirroring the growing or slowing economy more effectively and state aid adjusting accordingly.  Lastly, the bill would adjust option funding, requiring the state to pay the statewide average property tax cost to the school district a student opts into.  This way, the school receives a fair amount of funding to educate the student who lives outside that school district.

As a reminder, these column reviews are not endorsements of any specific property tax bill, but an effort on my part to keep you informed of what is happening in your state legislature.

You’re welcome to contact our office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at

Senator Hansen’s 5th Column
February 15th, 2019

This column covers legislative days 23 through 26.

This week was the busiest week yet for my staff and I as three of my bills received their public committee hearings.  As mentioned in earlier columns, every bill introduced receives its own hearing where any member of the public can come and testify in front of a committee of senators.  Committee chairs schedule the hearings and notify senators when their bills will be heard. Once a bill is heard in committee, the senators will meet in an “Executive Session” to vote to the floor for debate, hold it in committee, or delay a vote.  Many bills are amended through the committee process as a result of suggestions brought up during the hearing.

LB 378 to require persons under the age of 21 years to wear a helmet was heard on Tuesday in the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.  Many District 16 constituents came to testify – some in support and others in opposition.  Fifteen other senators who’ve cosigned this bill agree with me that riding motorcycles without a helmet is a matter of personal freedom and individual liberty.  I’m excited about the debate this bill will see on the floor.

LB 381 to change state agency reimbursement procedures was heard on Thursday in the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee.  I introduced the bill at the request of the Department of Administrative Services, which handles most administrative functions of Nebraska State Government.  The bill, if passed, would cut a lot of red tape currently required to process reimbursement claims for agency travel.

LB 312 to change restrictions placed on dental hygienists was also heard Thursday in the Health and Human Services Committee.  This bill would allow dental hygienists to work in home health or hospice settings and would encourage more hygienists to work in rural health clinics.  In preparing for the hearing, we discovered that 33 of Nebraska’s counties are without the services of a Public Health Registered Dental Hygienist, proving a need for expanded access to care in many rural areas of Nebraska.

My next review of property tax relief bills is a constitutional amendment proposed by Senator Linehan at the request of the Governor.  Legislative resolution 8 CA would limit the amount of property tax revenue raised by a political subdivision to only 3 percent more than what was raised in the previous year – with the exception that political subdivisions could raise more than 3 percent with a vote of the people.   Functionally, this would slow the growth of property tax increases and would likely be paired with other bills providing property tax cuts.  Because it’s a constitutional amendment this resolution, if passed by the legislature, would be placed on the ballot for a vote by all legal voters in the state.  As of February 15th, the resolution has not been scheduled for its public hearing.

You’re welcome to contact our office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at

Senator Hansen’s 4th Column
February 8th, 2019

This column covers legislative days 18 through 22.

The first full week of February was very welcome after a January that seemed never to end.  On the floor of the legislature, our mornings have been full of debate.  More and more bills pass through the committee process each day and are advanced to the General File for consideration by all 49 senators.  I received numerous emails and phone calls from constituents about several of the bills heard in committee or on the floor this week.  Some have been controversial and others have passed unanimously, like the constitutional amendment proposed by Senator Wayne to eliminate slavery or involuntary servitude as a punishment for crimes.  Thank you for reaching out to me.

As promised in my last column I’ll begin writing about certain property tax bills introduced this year that I’m taking a close look at.  Please keep in mind that the state does not actually levy property taxes.  All property taxes are levied and collected locally.  There are, however, ways we can affect local property taxes by changing related state policies.

The first property tax bill I’ll be reviewing is LB 497 introduced by Senator Friesen of Legislative District 34.  This bill addresses property taxes by changing how public schools are funded by the state.  Out of Nebraska’s 244 school districts, 69 receive state equalization aid.  The other 175 are funded almost entirely by local property taxes with 60 percent of all property taxes being used for school funding.  LB 497 stipulates the state pay at least 50 percent of basic education costs for every school in Nebraska

LB 497 achieves real property tax relief for residential, commercial, and agricultural property owners alike.  It funds schools in Nebraska sufficiently and ensures no school would be left without state aid.  The impact on Nebraskans would be varying.  Although “sin taxes” like those on alcohol and cigarettes are generally accepted, Nebraska is home to a booming craft-brew scene.  These breweries are popping up all over rural Nebraska and many of them use locally grown goods in their products.

The bill accomplishes all of this by eliminating several sales tax exemptions, raising other sales taxes, and changing the way agricultural land is evaluated in the state aid formula for school funding.  Sales taxes would rise $1.07/gallon on beer, $2.56/gallon on wine, $8.53/gallon on spirits, and $1.50 on cigarettes.  Certain goods and services currently exempt from sales tax would be taxed under the bill including food for home consumption, vehicle maintenance and repair, dry cleaning, hair care, massages, storage services.  Though the bill is projected to create over $524 million each year in added revenue we must be very thoughtful and intentional as we consider the impact these sort of changes would have on Nebraska’s economy and citizens’ everyday lives.

There are positives and negatives to this proposal but I’m hopeful the Revenue Committee will provide an opportunity for the bill to be debated by all 49 senators on the floor of the legislature.

Next week promises to be a big week as I’ll be introducing three bills at their committee hearings.

You’re welcome to contact our office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at

Senator Hansen’s Third Column
February 1st, 2019

This column covers legislative days 13 through 17.

Thank you to all the many constituents who’ve reached out to me with comments about bills, concerns in the district, and words of support.  It took some adjustment, but at this point in the session, I’m close to confident that I could find my way around the Capitol without a map and I’m 100% confident I know which elevator gives me the easiest route to my office.  I appreciate those who’ve visited so far.  Everyone in District 16 should feel welcome to contact me or visit my office in the Capitol.

As of February 1st, eight bills that could affect property tax rates in some way have been heard in the Revenue Committee.  As the intent and potential impact of these bills are discussed in the committee hearings, conversations between senators have started to take shape too.  It’s possible a package of bills may be needed to fully bring about the level of relief needed by Nebraskans.  Each of the eight bills heard in committee so far addresses the problem of high property taxes in a different way.  It’s my hope the members of the Revenue Committee will send us many options for discussion and debate on the floor by all senators.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll use this column to write about some of the more high profile property tax bills.  This will be beneficial to you in the district, but will also help me work through some of the details in each bill.  As I write about them, I will not be endorsing any of the bills but will be considering how to discuss them if they came up on the floor for debate.

My bill, LB321 introduced on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, was heard in committee this week.  The bill would allow for more efficient use of department resources when inspecting weights and measuring devices across the state.  I was excited to present my first bill in committee and I’m working with the other members to bring the bill to the floor.

In the Business and Labor Committee, we heard testimony on five bills; and the Health and Human Services Committee heard testimony on three bills; the Agriculture Committee heard testimony on two bills.  One of the more surprising hearings was that of LB 243 introduced by Senator Gragert to create a healthy soils task force.  In addition to receiving comments from constituents on this bill, the hearing was filled with many experienced farmers, ranchers, and researchers on both sides of the issue.  I was impressed by the number of people who showed up and the knowledge they had about Nebraska’s soil.  It really showcased what makes Nebraska so unique and the fact that generations of farming can be just as educational as any college degree.

You’re welcome to contact our office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at

Senator Hansen’s second column covers legislative days 9 through 12.

The third week of your 2019 Unicameral Legislature saw an uptick in activity as senators finalized bill introduction and committee hearings began.  At the end of January 23rd, 739 bills and 15 legislative resolutions had been introduced – all during the first 10 days of the session.  Each of these bills will be routed to one of 14 standing committees and receive a public hearing where stakeholders will testify as proponents, opponents, or in a neutral capacity.  Public hearings are an extremely important part of the work we do in the Legislature.  Without input from our constituents, we will not have all of the information necessary to make the best decisions possible for our state.  I encourage you to track bills of interest and to testify at the public hearings.  If you need information about how or when to do so, please contact my staff using the information at the end of this column.

When not debating rules of the session on the floor or in committee hearings, my schedule was full of meetings with constituents, government officials, and other individuals who will be resources as I represent everyone in District 16.  As a member of the Agriculture Committee and Health and Human Services Committee, I listened to testimony on 10 different bills and informational briefings.  The HHS Committee has a challenging task ahead of us as we make decisions incorporating the voter-approved Medicaid Expansion project in Nebraska.

I am also pleased to announce I am the only freshmen senator appointed as a member of the Legislative Performance Audit Committee.  This is a special committee tasked with determining state programs’ effectiveness, efficiency, and compliance with legislative intent.  On this committee, I’ll be able to ensure the state abides by sound policy implementation standards and the fiscal responsibility Nebraskans deserve because I believe one of my primary duties as your representative is to be a good steward of taxpayer money.  The constituents of District 16 are well served with their representative on this important committee.

As I look ahead to next week, I’ll continue preparation for the public hearing of my LB 321 in the Agriculture Committee on January 29th. This bill will streamline the efficiency of government resources by allowing risk-based inspections of scales rather than the mandatory annual inspections required currently.  The other four bills I’ve introduced have not yet been scheduled for committee hearings.

I continue to discuss property tax relief with other senators as some bills have been heard in the Revenue Committee.  I’m looking forward to debating these on the floor once the Revenue Committee votes them out of committee.

You’re welcome to contact our office at (402)-471-2728 to speak with my Administrative Assistant, Ellie Stangl; or my Legislative Aide, Jacob Campbell.  You can also email me at  To follow along with the session please visit or you may watch the live stream when available at

Sen. Ben Hansen

District 16
Room #11th Floor
P.O. Box 94604
Lincoln, NE 68509
Phone: (402) 471-2728
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